My 2nd day in Costa involved more cupping at the Exclusive office with 5 great folks from Maruyama, including the current Barista Champion of Japan, Mie Nakahara. I spent a bit more time with Mie than the others, as the others left while Mie stayed in Costa. It was great cupping with her—she’s as thoughtful, genuine and unpretentious as they get. That evening I headed up to the West Valley to stay a few nights there.
The next morning I was picked up by Ricardo Perez and he brought me to his mill, Zarcero. There I spent an hour discussing with Ricardo & Marvin their finical model, and how the current coffee NYBOT price is affecting them. It was both enlightening and profound to have a transparent cost/profit discussion with them.
In the end, I understood that the Helsar mill was bearing the finance burden of the lower coffee prices. They had to pay more for coffee cherry (than last year) to the producers in order to ensure they sustained a relationship with them, and that the producers didn’t just sell their coffee cherry to the bigger mills. To exacerbate the situation, the Costa Rican colón has dropped against the US dollar (since last year). We calculated that at the current price we had contacted, Helar’s profits would be 5 times lower than last year! After the discussion, it was clear to me that we should amend our contract and raise the price for them. In the end, we decided to raise our price to ensure that both Helsar and Manuel Arce made more than last year. We think this is well deserved, as there have been many quality improvements since last year.
After the discussion, we headed to the home of Manuel Arce. Manuel was not there at the time, but I met Manuel’s wife, Lorena. Directly upon entering her house she dropped fresh tortilla’s with their home-made cheese (from their dairy farm) in front of both Ricardo and myself. Talk about hospitality! She mentioned that they had given up the dairy farm they were leasing (the one I visited last year) and they purchased a new one called El Chayote. I would have gone to see it, but unfortunately, the roads were impassable due to the recent rain.
Ricardo and I decided to head to visit Gillio’s Finca La Casa while we waited for Manuel to return. During the visit, we saw pickers actively picking just above the house. Gillio’s coffee ripens late and these were still some of his mid-harvest lots, even though it’s late in the season (for other producers in the area).
We headed back to the Arce home were Ricardo left me with Manuel and Lorena, who drove to their coffee farm, Finca Don Chepe.
Manuel and Lorena generously spent a few hours walking me around the farm, as I peppered them with questions. The sun was just staring to dip, making the already lovely view that much nicer.
Manuel drove me back to Helsar, where I bumped into Stephen Leighton of Has Bean, on a tour of Costa with Francisco.
We closed off the night with some thing that was really special for me. Earlier in the day, at my request, Ricardo had roasted two different lots that he had milled for Arce. We then cupped the lots when Manuel and Lorena. It’s always a treat to cup coffees directly with a producer. One of the lots in particular, was showing very nice, even on the same day as it was roasted.